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Win ACC championship and FSU football is in playoff ... we think

But here’s a doomsday scenario, plus an unsettling remark or two from the College Football Playoff committee’s chairperson.
 
Florida State remained high in the CFP rankings. The Seminoles can likely earn a playoff spot by beating Louisville on Saturday in the ACC championship game.
Florida State remained high in the CFP rankings. The Seminoles can likely earn a playoff spot by beating Louisville on Saturday in the ACC championship game. [ COLIN HACKLEY | AP ]
Published Nov. 29, 2023

Florida State football fans can exhale slightly after the Seminoles rose one spot to fourth in Tuesday’s penultimate College Football Playoff rankings. Beat No. 14 Louisville in Saturday’s ACC title game, and FSU is headed to the playoff for the first time since 2014.

Unless the ’Noles aren’t.

Let’s be clear: It’s still hard to see an undefeated Power Five champion being left out of the final four. The ACC has been the weakest major conference, but FSU has as many victories over current CFP top-25 teams (two) as Texas and one more than Oregon.

The CFP selection committee, however, might have opened the door slightly when its chairperson was asked to evaluate FSU without injured quarterback Jordan Travis.

“Different team, right?” Boo Corrigan said on ESPN. “It’s more than just one player, but obviously they’re a different team without Travis.”

How different? The answer is crucial.

FSU quarterback Tate Rodemaker's success is pivotal for how the committee will evaluate the Seminoles.
FSU quarterback Tate Rodemaker's success is pivotal for how the committee will evaluate the Seminoles. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]

The committee’s charge is to select the four “best teams,” not the most deserving. If its members view a Tate Rodemaker-led FSU team much differently from the Travis-led one that won at No. 23 Clemson and pulled away from No. 13 LSU, there’s a chance the Seminoles no longer qualify as one of the four best.

It’s notable, too, that Corrigan said player availability/injuries are “a big part of the conversation.” How big compared to the team’s body of work is another crucial unknown.

While no undefeated Power Five champion has ever been left out of the playoff, the SEC has never been left out, either. FSU’s doomsday scenario is a clash of those two precedents.

It’s safe to assume one spot goes to the winner of Friday’s Pac-12 championship between No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Oregon. No. 2 Michigan is in if it beats No. 16 Iowa for the Big Ten title on Saturday. That’s two spots.

Things get tricky if No. 8 Alabama knocks off No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship — a realistic possibility — and No. 7 Texas wins the Big 12 over No. 18 Oklahoma State. The committee then must select two teams between:

• 12-1 SEC champion Alabama, which would have just ended the 29-game winning streak of the two-time reigning national champion Bulldogs and would have three other victories over ranked teams.

• 12-1 Big 12 champion Texas, which beat the Crimson Tide by 10 in September at Tuscaloosa.

• 13-0 ACC champion FSU without Travis.

• 12-1 SEC runnerup Georgia, which has been No. 1 for the past three weeks and has convincing wins over three ranked teams (two in the top 11).

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An Alabama win over Georgia would complicate Florida State's playoff situation.
An Alabama win over Georgia would complicate Florida State's playoff situation. [ JULIE BENNETT | PREPS | al.com ]

It’s impossible to see FSU making the final four with a loss to Louisville. The committee is only supposed to select a nonconference champion that’s “unequivocally” one of the top four teams; that standard won’t and shouldn’t apply to FSU team against this field.

A Seminoles squad that’s 13-0 and an ACC champion? That team is almost certainly headed to a semifinal at the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl. But FSU fans might want to pull for Georgia to beat ‘Bama — just in case.

College Football Playoff rankings

1. Georgia (12-0)

2. Michigan (12-0)

3. Washington (12-0)

4. Florida State (12-0)

5. Oregon (11-1)

6. Ohio State (11-1)

7. Texas (11-1)

8. Alabama (11-1)

9. Missouri (10-2)

10. Penn State (10-2)

11. Mississippi (10-2)

12. Oklahoma (10-2)

13. LSU (9-3)

14. Louisville (10-2)

15. Arizona (9-3)

16. Iowa (10-2)

17. Notre Dame (9-3)

18. Oklahoma State (9-3)

19. NC State (9-3)

20. Oregon State (8-4)

21. Tennessee (8-4)

22. Tulane (11-1)

23. Clemson (8-4)

24. Liberty (12-0)

25. Kansas State (8-4)

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